Who is most likely to experience cardiac arrest? Elizabeth Tracey reports


Cardiac arrest, where the heart suddenly beats so fast that blood cannot be pumped, grabs headlines when it is experienced by a young and presumably healthy athlete. Yet cardiologist and electrophysiologist Hugh Calkins at Johns Hopkins says most cardiac arrest takes place in those at risk.

Calkins: Most patients who have a cardiac arrest have underlying heart disease. With coronary disease, blocked arteries being the most common underlying cause. In some patients it’s the first manifestation of heart disease. They may have had coronary artery disease but they didn’t know it until they had a cardiac arrest, were resuscitated hopefully, and it was picked up on evaluation. It can also occur in patients who don’t have structural disease, who have a totally normal heart structurally but they have an electrical abnormality.  :29

Calkins says that sudden cardiac arrest is often survivable if bystanders act quickly, usually by using an automated defibrillator to get the heart beating normally again. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.